Campus News

Education Department Prepares Tomorrow's Teachers

Story posted January 10, 2003

January 8, 2003, marked the one-year anniversary of President George W. Bush's signing the "No Child Left Behind" Act into law. The sweeping measure is meant to ensure that every child in every state receives a good education.

Last month Associate Professor of Education Nancy Jennings discussed the law at a Community Lecture Series presentation. (Click here to read that story.)

Because teacher preparation and certification play such large roles in the "No Child Left Behind" law, Prof. Jennings began her talk by outlining what the Bowdoin education department does to prepare students to be placed as teachers in local schools.

"The Bowdoin education program has changed quite a bit since I've been here," Jennings explained. When she arrived in 1994 the department was made up of just one person. The faculty has since grown to 3 1/2 faculty positions.

Almost all the classes offered by the education department involve fieldwork for the students, whose class work takes them to 200-225 local classrooms every year, including Brunswick, Bath, Topsham, Yarmouth, Richmond, Falmouth, and SAD 75. (Additional students are also placed through mentoring programs.)

The amount of fieldwork varies. In an introductory class, a Bowdoin student might be assigned to shadow a school child around for a day. The intensity of time and work grows in more advanced classes: from spending more concentrated time observing students and teachers, to upwards of 3-4 days a week working with teachers as seniors. During the second semester of senior year, the Bowdoin student would spend the entire semester student teaching fulltime.

Student teaching is truly an immersion experience, Jennings explained. "Here they get a real sense of what teachers do, and what they themselves might do as teachers."

For the student teacher, it means getting up at 5:30 a.m., planning lessons, teaching classes, following the school calendar for 14 weeks. It's a very different life from what they had been used to.

"No spring break!" Jennings pointed out with a smile.

It's a tough job. "They moan mightily, cling to their peers, and are exhausted," she said. "But all of them, uniformly, say that it is the most meaningful experience. I feel honored being with them."

Maine benefits from this program, both in the present and the future. Not only do Bowdoin students make an impact as student teachers, but after they receive certification and graduate, their teaching careers often keep them in the state. Jennings reports that in the past two years, ten of the 25 certified Bowdoin students stayed in Maine to teach.

"Teaching is very, very tough work," concluded Jennings. "To go into it prepared is tough enough, but to go in unprepared is much worse."

It is clear Bowdoin education students are well prepared indeed.

Read more about the Bowdoin College education department at http://academic.bowdoin.edu/education/index.shtml.

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